I've laid off the pen Kickstarters recently. Last year, the Tactile Turn Gist and the Namisu Nova really were the only two that piqued my interest in any way. A lot of projects now tend to involve designs that either aren't original enough to justify spending $50-100, or "tactical pens" that double as a weapon, which I don't have any use for.
Long story short, I haven't been monitoring Kickstarter as closely as I should have, and I would've missed the Sostanza clutch pencil entirely had the folks at Sotteranea Officina Sperimentale, a design studio located in Torino, Italy, not reached out and asked if I wanted to review their new project.
The Sostanza is a clutch pencil/leadholder. Part of its appeal lies in its simplicity: the pencil consists of only three pieces: the wooden body, the 2mm lead, and a silver ring that fits around the body of the pencil and acts as a clamp that keeps the lead from sliding out the front. It's not quite as simple in its design as the Penxo leadholder, but it's much easier to operate and won't rip your fingernails off when you try to release the lead.
The pencil comes in various wood grains, including pear, mahogany, black walnut, ebony, and amaranth. (Note that ebony and amaranth are more expensive, being more exotic woods). I opted for the mahogany version. It's beautiful and smells great. All woods are said to have been sustainably harvested. The metal ring is made from sterling silver, but is cast in different tones to match the wood.
What I find interesting about this product is that the creators of the Sostanza appear to be trying to break the assumptions people have about clutch pencils and leadholders: people seem to assume that they are strictly artists' tools that are used for drawing. Instead, the creators of Sostanza have been very careful to refer to the Sostanza as a "wooden pencil that never ends," which to me strongly implies that this pencil is intended to be used as much for writing as it is for design work.
Sostanza works well as a writing tool. One thing that makes many leadholders unsuitable for long-form writing is their weight: they can be heavy and cause your hand to cramp. That's not an issue here. The Sostanza is extremely light, to the point where I can even comfortably tuck it behind my ear like a standard woodcase pencil. The pencil is also very well balanced, and feels similar to a fat "jumbo-style" woodcase pencil in the hand. Initially, I worried that the metal ring might make for an uncomfortable grip, but I've not had any issues based on how I hold the pencil.
The Kickstarter price for the Sostanza was 25 euros for the Early Bird, 30 euros for the regular reward, and 35 euros for the "deluxe packaging," which is a glass test tube with a cork stopper. I'd stick with the standard packaging: the test tube is cool, but the cork really can't be used as a stand for the Sostanza, as the pictures on Kickstarter imply. Mine kept falling over. While not inexpensive - there are cheaper leadholders and clutch pencils out there - the Sostanza is a unique-looking piece that tries to bring something new to the table.
I enjoy clutch pencils, and it's nice to find one that seems like it was made for writers as much as artists and designers. The Sostanza is beautiful and, in my opinion, worth the price. It's made it's way onto my desk at work and I've been using it regularly since it arrived.
The one drawback to the Sostanza is that it's definitely a "desk tool" for me: there's no clip, so it can't easily be transported around, and it's a touch long to fit comfortably in a pen case. Plus it's thin: I don't think Sostanza would survive having much pressure applied to it in the event something accidentally got dropped on my Nock Co. Sinclair, which is where I've been storing the pencil during my review.
If the idea of a leadholder intrigues you, but you either can't wait for the Sostanza to hit the open market, or you'd prefer more of a traditional mechanical-pencil design (including a clip), I'd recommend that you try the Caran d'Ache Fixpencil.
Where to Buy
The Sostanza Kickstarter successfully raised over $12,000, so hopefully we will see this project on the market after the rewards are fulfilled. You can preorder the Sostanza here. Please note that the Sostanza does not ship with either extra 2mm leads or a lead pointer (i.e., a sharpener). I'd recommend Uni 2B Leads and Lead Pointer.
The Sostanza has been reviewed favorably elsewhere. Ian over a Pens!Paper!Pencils! wrote a nice review, and is also giving a Sostanza away. Mike Dudek at the Clicky Post also has a review up, which, as always, is excellent.
Disclaimer: Sotteranea Officina Sperimentale sent me this Sostanza free of charge for review purposes. This post may also contain affiliate links to third parties.